The 160 teams taking part in the 19th annual Aiken Soccer Cup on Saturday were not only battling each other – players and fans alike were also battling stifling temperatures and humidity.
The two-day event brings in teams from all around the Southeast, with the age groups ranging from 8 and under to 19 and under for boys, and from 10 and under to 19 and under for girls.
Mother Nature decided to turn up the heat on this year’s event, though, with temperatures on Saturday getting up to 99 degrees at 5 p.m. Forecasters were predicting a heat index of about 105 degrees.
At Powderhouse Polo Field, tents dotted the 15 soccer fields, and spectators and players did everything they could to stay cool. Many spectators had small, portable fans in front of them while others used squirt bottles filled with water to mist themselves. One coach even used the spray attachment on a water hose to spray his players, who ran through the blast of water one by one.
Most teams took standard measures to deal with the heat, including ice water, sports drinks, ice towels and ice packs.
“We started last night with hydration,” said Buddy Scearce, who coaches the Florence Soccer Association’s under 12 boys team. “Getting them hydrated last night, got them up this morning. No greasy food, lots of fruits and vegetables and lots of water. Lots and lots of water.”
The team played a match earlier Saturday morning, then returned late Saturday afternoon for their second match.
“It’s hot, but that’s the game,” Scearce said. “It’s usually hot, and most of the tournaments we play are in the heat.”
Larry Mallett and his son, Lawrence, who plays with the Liverpool club from Lexington, stayed cool by sitting under a tent designated as the dining area, which had several large fans and cooling units under it.
“This is probably the hottest tournament we’ve ever played in,” Lawrence said, adding the heat didn’t negatively affect his playing.
Some spectators had elaborate tailgating spots with full-size fans blasting the area with a breeze, while others chose more unconventional ways to keep cool – like a fertilizer pump and hose filled with water.
There were several vendors selling cold drinks and sno-cones. There were also inflatable houses for the children to play on, including a water inflatable that offered users a tunnel filled with water and a mist from overhead.
Jennifer London is an athletic trainer with Doctors Hospital, which is providing first aid for the tournament. She said despite the soaring temperatures on Saturday, they only saw one or two people with symptoms of heat or sun exposure.
“I thought we were gonna have a lot more,” she said. “A lot of the people had games this morning, then went back to the hotel and cooled down, took a shower, got something to eat and then came back. I think that helped. A lot of the parents were very concerned, but everybody that’s come through here has seemed like they’re taking their kid and then coming back instead of just sitting in it.”
The Aiken Soccer Cup is taking place at three locations this weekend: the Powderhouse Polo Field located at 820 Powderhouse Road; the Whitney Polo Field located at 420 Mead Ave.; and Winthrop Polo Field located on Sumter Street.
Sunday’s events will be held from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Teddy Kulmala covers the crime and courts beat for the Aiken Standard and has been with the newspaper since August 2012. He is a native of Williston and majored in communication studies at Clemson University.
Staff photo by Teddy Kulmala Sam Dow, right, sprays his Golden Isles Soccer Association teammate Durham Daniel with a fertilizer pump and hose filled with water to stay cool under the high temperatures at the Aiken Soccer Cup on Saturday.×
Staff photo by Teddy Kulmala Larry Mallett, left, and his son, Lawrence, enjoy the breeze from one of several large fans placed in a dining area while watching a match at Powderhouse Polo Field during the Aiken Soccer Cup on Saturday.×
Staff photo by Teddy Kulmala Melayna Wilber, left, and Myah-Cate Wilber huddle under an umbrella at Powderhouse Polo Field on Saturday during a match at the Aiken Soccer Cup. The tournament continues today at Powderhouse Polo Field, Whitney Polo Field and Winthrop Polo Field.×